Inquiry Into Learner Profile: Open-Minded

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP & the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

We often associate open-mindedness as being important among places of great diversity. It may be even more important in more heterogeneous locations. Rather than assuming our kids have the general idea of its meaning and importance, it should be an ongoing conversation in which kids can make connections and come to conclusions for themselves. Which, of course, is the very purpose of this week’s provocation!

Resource #1: Often Do You Challenge Your Biases? by Soul PancakeGreat way to get kids thinking about biases. Could be interesting to conduct a similar experiment via a Mystery Skype-type approach with children from other classrooms?

Resource #2: The Things Kids Carried photo essay by Isabel FattalI wonder what would happen if we asked kids to draw what they think backpacks in different countries look like before showing them the photo essay?

via The Atlantic

Resource #: Perspective by Lauren PedrosaGreat conversation starter about what the word, perspective, means, and how it impacts our thinking.

Resource #4: This Is How We Do It by Matt LaMotheWhat I especially loved about this book was the emphasis that no one family can be representative of an entire country–I remember being very confused by a DK version of this book when I was young. This is a wonderful tool to help us better understand how children around the world are alike and different). 

Provocation Questions:

  • What does an open-minded mindset look like?
  • How can a person’s open-mindedness change over time?
  • What is our responsibility to be open-minded when we are surrounded by people who seem different? Who seem alike?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Media Literacy, ISTE Standards, & #FakeNews

In the wake of #FakeNews, and, more recently, President Trump’s “Fake News Awards,” it makes me reflect on our role as educators when it comes to media literacy, which has me again pondering the purpose of education. In 1934, John Dewey wrote,

“The purpose of education has always been to every one, in
essence, the same—to give the young the things they need in
order to develop in an orderly, sequential way into members of
society. This was the purpose of the education given to a little
aboriginal in the Australian bush before the coming of the white
man. It was the purpose of the education of youth in the golden
age of Athens. It is the purpose of education today, whether
this education goes on in a one-room school in the mountains
of Tennessee or in the most advanced, progressive school in a
radical community. But to develop into a member of society in
the Australian bush had nothing in common with developing into
a member of society in ancient Greece, and still less with what
is needed today. Any education is, in its forms and methods, an
outgrowth of the needs of the society in which it exists.”

In this unprecedented, exponential, and experimental age of communication, information, and sometimes misinformation, all previous norms and rules start to blur. As online rhetoric becomes more polarized, it starts to seem that our needs as a society are also becoming divided.

But the ability to ascertain truth remains a common, fundamental need of a democratic society, which makes our free press all the more essential. As educators this pursuit of truth comes through cultivating healthy media literacy. The ISTE standards are a powerful resource, as they can all be used to strengthen our students’ capacity to assess whatever information comes their way. Here are my thoughts on what this might look like.

1. Empowered Learner: “Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.”) Helping students learn to identify bias, and giving them the technological know-how to discern among different types of online media (ie, social media posts, blog posts, journalism, etc.)

2. Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.”) Helping students learn specific strategies for fact-checking, and a general “think before you share” mindset.

via Marshall University Libraries

3. Knowledge Constructor: “Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.”)  Giving our students immersive opportunities to read a large cross-section of sources when embarking on a new unit.

4. Innovative Designer: Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.” → Encouraging students to be part of the solution when it comes to misinformation by creating their own carefully-sourced media literacy resources (infographics, videos, etc).

5. Computational Thinker: Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.”) Teaching students the science and driving force behind “click bait,” as well what methods mainstream news outlets use to fact-check.

6. Creative Communicator (“Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.”) Giving students the opportunity to have authentic audiences via student blogs to increase their literacy as online contributors. 

7. Global Collaborator (“Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.”)Join a global collaborative platform such as The Wonderment where students can gain a sense of themselves as citizens of a global society, in which their voice matters.
There are many unknowns as we continue to collectively feel our way through this unparalleled time. But we can be certain that media literacy will empower and equip our students and ourselves to better access and anchor our society in truth.
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

“Just Trust Me” #TeacherMom

You know, for a person who as written about trust, autonomy, and ownership as often as I have, you think I’d be pretty dang comfortable with it. The truth is, it takes a many shaky, conscious decisions every day, every hour, to choose whether we’ll walk that uncomfortable path.

Will I let the 3 year-old carry his full cup of milk to the table even though I know odds are high that we’ll need a mop? Will I trust that my 7 year-old is getting something out of that chapter book she excitedly chose at the library, even though I know it’s a tad beyond her independent level? Will I permit the 1 year-old to help me unload the dishwasher even though he occasionally gets over-excited and spikes the plates on the floor?

It’s more than setting aside our own agenda and worries about mess and time. It’s showing our kids that we genuinely trust their growing abilities.

This opportunity to test my commitment to these principles arose again earlier this week on an unseasonably warm day when my kids wanted to play outside–all of them. My 7 year-old and I went back and forth for a while about whether she would be able to watch the 1 year-old at all times. As I continued to hem and haw, she pulled out the line, “Mom, just trust me?” As I looked into her earnest eyes, I knew that she would take the responsibility seriously.

And she did. When they came back home, cheeks were flushed with joy and success.

It’s never an easy decision to trust our kids–especially because sometimes, they truly are not yet ready for certain responsibilities. But we need to be careful that when these decisions arise, we do not choose on a basis of fear. As my friend Aviva Dunsinger recently wrote,

Is every safety concern we have actually a big problem, or would some deep breaths and a little more watching and listening time change our views? I wonder how frequently our fears prevent opportunities for children, and if it’s time to make some changes.”

Though I don’t know that I will ever become completely comfortable with choosing trust, I do know it will increase my kids’ trust in themselves.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Attitudes: Commitment

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP & the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Anyone who works with kids knows that much of that effort is a balancing act. And when it comes to balance, commitment involves quite a lot of that balance. Think about it–we want kids to develop the skills to stick with things even when it’s hard, but we also want them to learn to recognize and honor when specific pursuits no longer work for them (ie, notion of abandoning books that aren’t doing it for you, trading soccer for theater, etc). Inviting kids into the conversation about how to build commitment while honoring autonomy is key. So as you take a look at these incredible examples of commitment, you might consider how to invite dialogue on this element of balance as well!.

Resource #1: “Be A Control Freak / Lily Hevesh” by Telia Carrier via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: Stukenborg by Charles William Kelly

Resource #3: The Genius of Marie Curie by Ted-Ed

Provocation Questions: 

  • What does it mean to be committed to your work?
  • How does commitment impact our work as individuals? As communities?
  • How do we balance commitment with trying new things?
  • What is our responsibility to be committed in our work?
  • How does commitment change over the course of a person’s life?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

5 Principles For Giving Inspiring Feedback

I would like to highlight, once more, feedback that I recently received from a friend in my PLN:

Her words inspired me to the extent that I shared a follow-up post last week about how her words led me to a shift in personal action and mindset, and in which I publicly thanked her for being such an asset to my personal/professional learning.

Why? What was it about her feedback that led not only to change, but to even greater mutual respect?

After all, it’s not easy for any of us to hear when we might have fallen short. Yet it is crucial for us to recognize ways we can grow. So the art of giving feedback that inspires is an invaluable skill for us all in this age of information and communication. For those of us educators using social media platforms for some #diyPD, it’s especially helpful to consider the ways that will facilitate the best kinds of connection when we share our insights with one another.

Here are 5 questions we might ask ourselves:

#1: Is there a relationship? This is the #1 question in all contexts when working with people. If we turn up out of the blue without previously having made any efforts to know where the person across the table is coming from, we can bet that our insights won’t be as well received as they might otherwise have been. This is a particularly important question to ask ourselves as we work with our students.

#2: Is there kindness? At first, this seems obvious, but it’s actually easy to take for granted amid the anonymity of social media–easy to forget that there’s a living, breathing, feeling person on the other end of our sometimes-harsh words. I’ve been surprised to read comments on larger educational websites like Edutopia where feedback quickly devolves to personal attacks or scorn. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t give that feedback in person to a colleague in your building, don’t give it on social media.

#3: Have you read the content in full? Whether the feedback is negative or positive, it’s important to have the full picture before imparting. This helps ensure our feedback is as relevant as possible.

#4: Are you genuinely curious? As long as we remain curious about one another’s work and opinions, we are much more likely to avoid assumptions, and to remain centered on growth over correction.

#5: Are you in the arena, too? This is derived from a quote from Brene Brown. Simply put:

Speaking of Brene Brown, I can’t ever write a blog post even remotely related to feedback without sharing her fabulous “Engaged Feedback Checklist.”

I am so grateful for those who have taken the time to give inspiring feedback that has helped me grow. How have you been inspired by others’ feedback as you seek learning in your PLN?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

What Child Autonomy Is Not #TeacherMom

When kids feel constantly acted upon, with little understanding of what’s coming next in their lives, we can expect problematic behavior. This is what autonomy is all about. It’s why I have so deeply appreciated learning about the philosophy of Self-Reg. It’s why I write and tweet so frequently about #StudentVoice and #StudentChoice. And its why I’m always searching for ways I can better help my kids take the wheel in directing their lives.

Most recently, I decided to make little labeled picture magnets to help my 3 year-old organize and understand the flow of his days. It’s still unfolding, but I’m working on labeling or grouping the pictures so he can see which are activities he can choose from (pic below), which are activities that I will let him know are happening that day (library, local recreation center), and which are daily routines (meals, storytime, etc).

In addition building his functional concept of time (including the ability to tell what comes “after” or “before),” it’s already building his comprehension of his personal autonomy over how he can spend his time. He can more clearly see the choices within his reach, and he is learning to understand where those choices fall among the non-negotiable pursuits of each day.

This exercise in building autonomy is precious. It is laying a foundation for better self-awareness and self-determination.

However, almost similar to the way that discussing power is sometimes frowned upon, the concept of honoring and building kids’ autonomy is often misunderstood. So I’ve been thinking lately about what it is not. Autonomy is not

letting kids do whatever they want. As described in the above daily picture magnets, there are activities that are non-negotiable (meals, brushing teeth, etc). But even within those non-negotiables, we spend considerable time discussing the why behind them. And we also allow kids to feel the consequences of their choices without rescuing them every time to better help them understand their importance.

never forcing them. Sometimes, kids do need a nudge for their own safety and development. However, we prioritize intrinsic motivation and “letting them in on the secret” of their development. This helps them to self-regulate their needs so they are not reliant on others for treats, stickers, praise, or compulsion in order to make the very choices that will most benefit their lives.

the absence of hard concepts that kids might avoid, such as work ethic. Instead, we help kids cultivate a broader view of who they are and who they want to become, allowing that strong sense of identity to drive themselves through hard things.

What obstacles have you encountered in advocating for kids’ autonomy? What benefits have you seen in honoring their autonomy?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry Into Learner Profiles: Risk-Taker

This is part of a series of provocations for essential elements of the PYP, including individual attitudes, learner profiles, etc. For more, click here.

Risk-taker has always been my favorite of the PYP learner profiles. It seemed the most natural of conversations in the classroom as it connected to any new venture on which we embarked. After all, authentic learning takes a large degree of courage. But do how often do we really dive into naming and investigating what it really means to be a risk-taker as a learner? This provocation is designed to help students ponder more the what and why of risk-taking.

Resource #1: The Courage to Invent: A NASA Roboticist Tells Her Story by NPR via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Resource #3: (for a touch of playfulness) Don’t Put Any Coins In This Cardboard Coin Box via The Kid Should See This

Provocation Questions: 

  • What is the connection between risk-taking and creativity?
  • How do we know we are really taking a risk?
  • What’s the difference between positive risk-taking and negative risk-taking?
  • What are the perspectives on risk-taking? Does that perspective change for people over their lifetimes?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto